The protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae causes adult and nestling mortality in a declining population of European Turtle Doves, Streptopelia turtur

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Stockdale, JE ; Dunn, JC ; Goodman, SJ ; Morris, AJ ; Sheehan, DK ; Grice, PV ; Hamer, KC (2015)
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Studies incorporating the ecology of clinical and sub-clinical disease in wild populations of conservation concern are rare. Here we examine sub-clinical infection by Trichomonas gallinae in a declining population of free-living European Turtle Doves and suggest caseous lesions cause mortality in adults and nestlings through subsequent starvation and/or suffocation. We found a 100% infection rate by T. gallinae in adult and nestling Turtle Doves (n = 25) and observed clinical signs in three adults and four nestlings (28%). Adults with clinical signs displayed no differences in any skeletal measures of size but had a mean 3·7% reduction in wing length, with no overlap compared to those without clinical signs. We also identified T. gallinae as the suggested cause of mortality in one Red-legged Partridge although disease presentation was different. A minimum of four strains of T. gallinae, characterized at the ITS/5·8S/ITS2 ribosomal region, were isolated from Turtle Doves. However, all birds with clinical signs (Turtle Doves and the Red-legged Partridge) carried a single strain of T. gallinae, suggesting that parasite spill over between Columbidae and Galliformes is a possibility that should be further investigated. Overall, we highlight the importance of monitoring populations for sub-clinical infection rather than just clinical disease.
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